Monday, December 3, 2018
Moving Beyond MeToo to Fix the Workplace with a Formal Model of Worker-Drive Collaboration with Consumers
Gillian Thomas, MeToo Hasn't Fixed the Workplace. Here's a Playbook that Can.
The #MeToo reckoning triggered by the Harvey Weinstein scandal last year can cause whiplash. There have been emotional highs: The movement unleashed a cacophony of voices — women telling their stories, lifting others’ up, all of them mad as hell that men were still getting away with abuse, almost 30 years after “I Believe Anita,” the analog version of #MeToo.***
But the dispiriting reality is that the past year has seen only baby steps in the right direction. Women (and men) might be speaking their truth in record numbers, but the same (mostly) guys who for years have done nothing to stop harassment at companies large and small — and in fact have been retaliating against accusers, forcing them into secret arbitration hearings and absorbing the cost of settling their claims — are still the ones in charge. ***
The article goes on to recommend the following:
A formal model of worker-driven collaboration with consumers could do incalculable good if adopted more widely. The Fair Food Program, launched in 2011 in the tomato fields of Florida by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, targets degrading work conditions, including brutal sexual abuse. (Some studies have found that 80 percent of female farmworkers have faced harassment, including rape and other assault.) It enlists the consumers of big agriculture — namely, the fast-food restaurants and supermarket chains that spend hundreds of millions of dollars on Florida tomatoes every year, such as Taco Bell, Whole Foods and Walmart — as enforcers against such abuses. The buyers pledge to pull their business from farms that violate a worker-authored code of conduct, and the workers themselves are the monitors. An independent body conducts investigations and unannounced audits of participating farms, with 80 percent of complaints resolved in less than a month. The consequences of violations are swift and strict: Harassers are fired and temporarily banned from reemployment at participating farms, while growers that fall consistently short face probation or suspension from the program.
The results are stunning. Since the program’s inception, no cases of rape or attempted rape have been reported, and only one supervisor has been found to have engaged in physical harassment since 2013. During last year’s growing season, not a single sexual harassment complaint was lodged at more than 70 percent of participating farms. What’s more, only 15 percent of the farms where complaints arose saw evidence of retaliation against accusers. Progress like this would be noteworthy for any industry, but given the exploitative starting point of big agriculture, the transformation is nothing short of miraculous.